By Tom Still
MADISON – A source close to the toy industry has once again leaked a copy of Santa’s perks list for Wisconsin politicians and newsmakers. Here’s what the good boys and girls in Madison and Washington will reportedly find in their stockings this Christmas. But they better not pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down chimneys after midnight.
Gov. Scott Walker – Shopping for some people is tough. Chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association? Nope, he’s got that. Republican majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature? Got that, too. As Walker ponders running for a third term, he may need a state budget bill that silences his critics on roads, higher education, natural resources and more. Perhaps juggling lessons are in order.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos – Republicans enjoy a robust 64-35 edge in the Assembly. That means the GOP could afford to throw a few seats overboard if the federal courts conclude the 2011 redrawing of districts was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Santa’s gift to Vos is a “naughty list” of lawmakers who wouldn’t necessarily be missed.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca – With his party’s ranks dwindling with each election, Barca almost didn’t run for another term as leader of the Democrats in the Legislature’s lower (but larger) house. His gift is to balance the parliamentary role of “loyal opposition” with coming up with a political strategy to stop the bleeding.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy – The Northwoods Republican decried Madison as a “communist community,” which might be dismissed as rhetoric if not for the fact the city and Dane County have set a torrid pace for economic growth – led by capitalists in profit-driven, private companies. Santa’s gift for Duffy is a copy of “The Communist Manifesto” so he can learn what real commies such as Marx and Engels thought.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson – Christmas came early for Wisconsin’s Republican senator, who won re-election despite a double-digit deficit in early polls. In Johnson’s case, Santa looked a lot like President-elect Trump. As Johnson begins a second six-year term, his gift would be to fully embrace a job his anti-incumbent campaign ads would have you believe he never held.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch – Wisconsin’s effervescent No. 2 may need to wait if she aspires to the office upstairs, but she hides any ambitions well and uses her time wisely by focusing on the economy, veterans, workforce development, health care and her interest in tech. Santa’s gift is more of what she already seems to have: patience and optimism.
State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb – He’s predicting half of Wisconsin’s roads will be in poor shape within 10 years unless the state finds ways to pay for repairs. That has set up a showdown between Walker, who doesn’t want to raise taxes without a tradeoff, and Vos, who says Wisconsin should pay now versus borrowing and paying more later. Gottlieb’s gift would be for Trump to come through with a promised federal plan to rebuild highways and bridges.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin – The 2018 U.S. Senate election map is a grim landscape for Democrats. Republicans already hold 52 seats in the Senate and Democrats must defend seats in nine states carried by Trump. That list includes Wisconsin, where Baldwin can expect an aggressive challenge. Perhaps Baldwin can ask Santa to keep all those Trump voters home for the mid-term elections.
House Speaker Paul Ryan – Trump once called the Janesville Republican a “weak and ineffective leader,” but that was campaign talk. The president-elect must soon deal with a Congress that wonders if he respects the concept of separation of powers. Ryan’s gift is a wallet-sized copy of the Article I of the U.S. Constitution to flash when needed during those tough Oval Office meetings.
UW-Whitewater graduate and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – A sign for his desk that reads, “The bluster stops here.”
Tommy Thompson – It will be 30 years ago in January when TGT took office for the first of four terms as governor, a tenure marked by innovation in job creation, welfare reform and education. Perhaps a visit by the Spirit of Christmas Past might jog memories about that legacy.
For Wisconsin’s rising political stars: In an era when sharp personal attacks and partisanship drive more good people away from politics than it attracts, it’s reassuring to know that some quality office-holders continue to be attracted to public service. That’s a gift to Wisconsin citizens. Happy holidays, everyone!